Because pets usually have shorter life spans than their human caregivers, you may have planned for your animal friend’s passing. But what if you are the one who becomes ill or incapacitated, or who dies first? As a responsible pet owner, you provide your pet with food and water, shelter, veterinary care, and love. To ensure that your beloved pet will continue to receive this care should something unexpected happen to you, it’s critical to plan ahead. This information sheet helps you do just that.
What can I do now to prepare for the unexpected?
In the confusion that accompanies a person’s unexpected illness, accident, or death, pets may be overlooked. In some cases, pets are discovered in the person’s home days after the tragedy. To prevent this from happening to your pet, take these simple precautions:
- Find at least two responsible friends or relatives who agree to serve as temporary emergency caregivers in the event that something unexpected happens to you. Provide them with keys to your home; feeding and care instructions; the name of your veterinarian; and information about the permanent care provisions you have made for your pet.
- Make sure your neighbors, friends, and relatives know how many pets you have and the names and contact numbers of the individuals who have agreed to serve as emergency caregivers. Emergency caregivers should also know how to contact each other.
- Carry a wallet “alert card” that lists the names and phone numbers of your emergency pet caregivers.
- Post removable “in case of emergency” notices on your doors or windows specifying how many and what types of pets you have. These notices will alert emergency-response personnel during a fire or other home emergency. Don’t use stickers; hard-to-remove stickers are often left behind by former residents, so firefighters may assume that the sticker is outdated or, worse, they may risk their lives trying to find a pet no longer in the house.
How can I ensure long-term or permanent care for my pet if I become seriously ill or die?
The best way to make sure your wishes are fulfilled is by also making formal arrangements that specifically cover the care of your pet. It’s not enough that long ago your friend verbally promised to take in your animal or even that you’ve decided to leave money to your friend for that purpose.Work with an attorney to draw up a special will, trust, or other document to provide for the care and ownership of your pet as well as the money necessary to care for her.
For more information
Animal lovers may wish to provide financial support at the time of death with a bequest supporting the Humane Society (HSUS) animal protection programs. Naming the HSUS in your will demonstrates your lasting commitment to animal welfare. The HSUS has materials on numerous subjects that they can send you, including:
- How to include The HSUS in a will as a primary or secondary beneficiary
- How to include The HSUS in a will as a final beneficiary for the residue of an estate
- “37 Things People ‘Know’ About Wills That Aren’t Really So”
- The HSUS Creative Estate Planning Course
Other Estate Planning Vehicles and Charitable Gifts
- Charitable gift annuities and trusts
- Helping Hands recognition society
- Kindred Spirits pet memorials
- Making gifts of stock and avoiding capital gains tax
If you or your legal advisor would like more information on any of these matters, please contact The HSUS’s Planned Giving Office, at 1-800-808-7858, or The HSUS’s Office of the General Counsel, at 202-452-1100, extension 3320.
NOTE: The foregoing is intended to provide general information and to stimulate your thinking about providing for your pet in the event of your incapacity or death. It is not intended to provide legal advice and is definitely not a substitute for consulting a local attorney of your choosing who is familiar both with the laws of your state and with your personal circumstances and needs, and those of your pets.Back to Knowledge Center